"You can not learn without doing" is a shared sentiment in the tech community. It is impossible to build a website without coding sections and entire websites. You can not plan and lead feature development teams without working on projects and planned sprints or other portions of a feature. The same is true for UX / UI design. You must experience, explore and design components and stories to create immersive and engaging user experiences.
Make a List of Your Favorite Websites
The great thing about learning UX / UI design is there is inspiration everywhere. Design is everywhere, everything from digital interfaces at your subway station kiosk to your favorite online stores to shop at. Because professional designs are everywhere, our first step to learning UX / UI design should be easy. We will compile a list of your favorite websites and look at how they work.
Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, and Google are websites utilizing some of the best UX / UI designers in tech. They use A/B testing to determine how users use their websites and the best ways to structure pages to flow as compelling stories for their users. We want websites like this to learn how to design.
Before we go any further, compile a list of 15+ of your favorite websites. Try not to limit yourself to social media; we want various user stories in how our subjects are structured. Maybe look for some commerce and news sites, entertainment and streaming, sports and games, and social media. Feel free to expand into any other types of websites you can think of.
The Story a Website Tells
A good designer does not build a website that feels like a group of parts. A well-designed website should flow from user entry to the ultimate goal of answering a user's need. If the user enters a website looking for a new shirt, the website should lead them through what makes the company's shirts unique. You will give all the shirt options of sizes, styles, and colors. Then you will take the user through a cart and checkout process.
This is not a small task, and poor design decisions at any point could cost a company a sale or a user. Websites are more than just code; they are the ability to talk to customers and create effortless, enjoyable experiences for these users.
As you are working through your list of websites, notice the sections of the website and how they are presented. This could be a home page or landing page and how they use an order of testimonials and feature sections to keep you on the website learning more. If it is a commerce website, notice how parts of a home or category page go from products targeted for you to more general, serendipitous purchase options.
Well-designed websites do not feel like puzzles; they should feel like a tight path that gets users from Point A to Point B in a logical manner. Of course, you want users to try new features and buy more products. Note how your favorite websites work new features into existing user actions. Do they use homepage banners or modals that pop up in related sections to inform?
The call to action for new feature use can be as subtle as a blue dot above a new navigation button or as intrusive as a modal that locks the website until you acknowledge it. Both could be possible tools you use. Note the approaches, how they feel and look, and what you think when you see them.
Investigate the Pieces
Once you have a good feel for how these pages flow and how a story is told, it is time to look at more granular design components. We need to look at the page components. Where pages are stories, page components act as paragraphs and words that offer more specific meaning for users. Components draw attention to areas of a page and make calls to action for your users.
When you look at these components, look at items like size, color, font, hover and click effects, the contrast between other parts of the page, and general placement. All features vary by design scheme and even between industry and product. If you are looking at websites selling tablets or headphones, you can expect one type of component collection. Sites that sell construction and manufacturing gear may use a different component set. Review the websites and know your audience.
There are no correct answers for how a website should be built or the pieces used, but after spending enough time looking at professional design, you should have a feeling. Staying stagnant in your methods or copying others' designs is not a great way to stand out. However, some user flows, and component behaviors have not changed in 20 years. Review and explore these websites and see just how much you can learn.
Take Your UX / UI Design Learning to the Next Level
As mentioned earlier, you can not learn how to do something without doing it. UX / UI design is a unique field that requires a lot of observation and reflection when building designs. The points discussed above are great ways to see how other great designers work and what they produce.
Even with these exercises, you must practice design to become a professional. If you want to become a professional, take Thinkful's 5-month UX / UI Design Bootcamp to learn how to approach design and industry tools and best manage clients!